To make a film filled with long silences and almost entirely free of audible dialogue is a bold choice. To then make it a genre picture – a horror film no less – is pretty close to insane. To then have it become one of the most critically and commercially successful films of the year is about as close to a miracle as Hollywood gets.
A Quiet Place is a horror movie filled with monsters that quickly devour you the moment you make any sound. It focuses on one family (the credits list them as the Abbotts, but I don’t recall any of their names being spoken in the film) who are trying to survive in a world in which sound, any sound, can be deadly. It is a tightly scripted, acted, and directed little genre film that delivers the thrills you want and the emotional impact you need.
It was co-written, directed by, and stars John Krasinski (sporting his Ben Affleck serious-filmmaker beard) who is so many light years away from his goofy, everyman characters we’re used to seeing him in one wonders if he was abducted by monsters and replaced with a more interesting alien. His real life wife, Emily Blunt, plays the mom and Noah Jute is the older boy and deaf actress Millicent Simmons plays the deaf daughter. Yes, in a film about blind monsters who have super hearing, there is a young deaf girl (I really wish I could have been to that pitch meeting).
We first meet them a few weeks after the monsters appear. The family is silently rummaging through a store for supplies. One child gives another child a toy to play with. When that child puts batteries into it, the toy makes a noise and a tragedy occurs. A year later and the family still mourns. They live quiet, silent lives. They speak in sign language. There walk bare foot on pathways made of sand. They play Monopoly with cloth squares. They survive.
Oh, did I mention Emily Blunt’s character is quite pregnant? I don’t want to get into the politics of abortion but if ever there was a time to think about that procedure, it would be when bringing a loud, screaming, completely defenseless creature into the world could literally kill you and your family in about 30 gruesome seconds flat. But hey, it sure ups the tension (seriously, is there a recording of that pitch meeting somewhere?). The film subtly does away with the question by giving us a scene where the family (silently) prays together, thus making them religious, thus possibly making abortion completely out of the question.
It is subtle about a lot of things, like instead of giving us unnecessary exposition about what the monsters are and how we know they are blind but have super hearing, we get newspaper headlines tacked in the dad’s basement that acts like a tech-filled, surveillance bunker. Though that brings up its own questions, like how are they still generating electricity? And why did a newspaper, once finding out the monsters attack sound, decide to run a very loud printing press to tell everyone?
I’m being cheeky. It’s true there are lots of plot points that don’t make real logical sense. Like where did they get all the sand? There doesn’t seem to be a beach nearby. And wouldn’t it wash away when it rains? Also, how did they grow all that corn without the use of any machinery?
But there I am being cheeky again. Despite the problem with some of the plot devices, the film is so effectively made, so tightly crafted that I never really care about them while watching. This was even more true my second time through. Some of the plot contrivances bugged me the first time through, but watching it again, knowing where it goes, I was more attuned to the filmmaking. This is such a well-crafted movie. Every shot feels through and diligently created. This is what genre filmmaking should always look like.
The Blu-ray looks amazing. It’s crisp, sharp, and finely detailed. Colors are warm and gorgeous. Audio is terrific as well. This is a film designed to give your surround sound a workout. The nature of the film means every sound is important. I remember watching the film in the theatre and being really annoyed at all the popcorn- and candy-eaters, making so much noise, something I never think about in other films. At home, every time the air conditioner turned on or the refrigerator clicked, I jumped. The quiet spaces are uniquely important. At times, the film will jump into the perspective of the deaf girl and the soundtrack goes completely quiet. At other times, we hear nothing but leaves rustling. All of this comes in through perfectly on the Blu-ray. Extras are plenty light. They consist of three short features on the making of the film in general and the sound design, creature effects in specific. They are all interesting but not very long.
A Quiet Place has its flaws, mostly held within its script, but it is a wholly effective and enjoyable little horror thriller.